The nura headphones – or nuraphone – were developed to solve a particular problem: different listeners hearing the same tracks, well, differently.
"People's ears, and what they hear, are very different," Kyle Slater from nuraphone told us when he visited our Melbourne office last year. "Your eardrum and the three bones and the cochlea is very different for everyone. The difference between people is a lot bigger than people realize. A 200 Hz tone, you might be particularly sensitive to that, where I might not be. And I might be much more sensitive to a 1 kHz tone than you are. If the headphones aren't matched to your hearing, you miss instruments. You miss a lot of detail you should be able to hear."
The nuraphone makes use of self-learning software that tests for otoacoustic emissions via an iOS/Android mobile app – where different sounds are sent down the ear canal, and a faint low-level sound that's emitted by the cochlea for each sound is picked up by a microphone and a unique sound profile built for each user. The test takes about a minute, after which the unique sonic profile is stored on the nura headphones and all sound passed through from the music source is adjusted to match the user's profile for tailored listening.
Up to three user sound profiles can be stored on a pair of nura headphones at any one time, with the system able to automatically recognize a stored wearer's profile if desired, and users can compare stored profiles by tapping the side of the housing.
The curious dual-driver design splits the incoming signal, sending the lower end to the over ear tactile driver that "delivers the sound through your skin" and routing the mid to high frequencies through the in-ear speaker. Users can adjust the delivery via the companion app, for stage front or back of the room placement.
The headphones feature a stainless steel headband, aluminum cups that include a bass-driven ventilation system to help keep ear heat down during long-haul sessions, and soft silicone for the in-ear and over-ear components, which is said to offer two layers of passive isolation from the outside world.
The listener can connect to a music source over Bluetooth with aptX or via a choice of digital or analog cable options. The nuraphone's battery is reported good for 20 hours of continuous play.
The first batch of production headphones are available from today at US$399 each, though stocks are limited until the end of 2017. We were impressed by the prototype unit we got to try out last year, but if you'd rather have a listen before parting with that amount of cash then look out for listening parties being organized across the US, Europe and Australia. In the meantime, you can watch the promo video below.
Product page: nuraphone